Author Anna Funder, who was announced winner of this year’s Miles Franklin Literary Award yesterday for her first novel, All That I Am, has slammed Queensland premier Campbell Newman for scrapping the state’s top literary prize.
Funder told ABC 24 this morning that axing the Queensland Premier’s Literary Prize was ‘shocking’ and that its $250,000 cost which the government hoped to save was equivalent to the government hiring an IT consultant for a year.
Ms Funder said it was not up to the premier to scrap the prize as he didn’t own ‘it’s the people’s money’.
She said that all her life she had railed against totalitarian regimes and observed that the first thing a dictator was inclined to do when assuming power was to ‘silemnce’ writers and journalists’.
Ms Funder is currently in London and the prize was awarded at an event held at the State Library of Queensland, Brisbane.
The Miles Franklin Literary Award, recognised as Australia’s most prestigious literary prize, was established in 1954 through the Will of My Brilliant Career author, Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin, to encourage and support writers of Australian literature. The annual Award is presented to the novel of the year which is judged to be of the highest literary merit and ‘presents Australian Life in any of its phases’. Funder will receive $50,000 in prize money.
‘The judges admired this ambitious novel that moves across continents and decades to remind us that experiences of exile and dislocation have long been part of Australian life.
‘Inspired by interviews and memoirs of those who resisted the Third Reich from the beginning, Funder’s novel is shaped by the flawed memories and recollections of its two narrators, Ruth and Toller, who survive to bear witness. In this way the novel is both a testimony to those who led the resistance to Nazism, and a reflection on the limited ways that fiction and history can represent the traumatic past and do justice to its victims,’ said Prof Gillian Whitlock, Australian Research Council Professorial Fellow at the University of Queensland speaking on behalf of the 2012 judging panel.
The panel also included Richard Neville, State Library of New South Wales, Mitchell Librarian, Murray Waldren, journalist and columnist at The Australian newspaper, Anna Low, a Sydney based bookseller and Prof Julianne Schultz AM, founding editor of Griffith REVIEW.
They said All That I Am, based on real people and events, ‘is a masterful and exhilarating exploration of bravery and betrayal, of the risks and sacrifices some people make for their beliefs, and of heroism hidden in the most unexpected places’.
While All That I Am is Funder’s first novel, she is also author of the international, non-fiction bestseller Stasiland, which won the 2004 Samuel Johnson Prize and was published in 20 countries and translated into 16 languages.
Funder was selected as the 2012 winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award by the judging panel from the field of five shortlisted authors including; Tony Birch Blood, Gillian Mears Foal’s Bread, Frank Moorhouse Cold Light and Favel Parrett Past the Shallows.
In announcing the winner John Atkin, CEO of The Trust Company, reiterated his call for the Government to consider making the $50,000 prize money tax free in line with The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, for which the winner receives $80,000 tax free.